AUGUSTA — Anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 people will make their way through the Maine Agricultural Trades Show this week, and it’s possible that among them are prospective customers for Joel Davis and Central Maine Meats.

As a relatively new player in the market, the facility is working to raise its profile across Maine. Customer by customer, the company is increasing its reach into the agricultural community, and it’s hiring to meet those needs.

“We’re growing very nicely,” Davis, managing director for Central Maine Meats, said Tuesday.

In late December, company officials received word from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development that they had secured a $100,000 employee training grant through the Community Development Block Grant Program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That’s in addition to the $540,000 block grant awarded in the middle of last year to allow the company to expand its production more quickly and to add equipment for producing specialized products like sausage and smoked meats. That grant came with a job-creation requirement that obligates the company to hire 14 people with just more than half of them coming from low- to moderate-income levels.

“We have a vision of expanding in a controlled environment,” Davis said.

Within the next week or so, the company’s flash freezer will come on line, and workers are being trained to use it. With it, Davis said, Central Maine Meats will have the ability to flash freeze seafood, shellfish and even vegetables for its customers.

The company has also acquired a smoker, and later this year, after it’s installed and the training on using it is completed, that will be operational.

Mark Brown may never be one of Davis’ customers. Even so, on Tuesday he stopped by the Central Maine booth while making the rounds at the trades show to inquire about the operation.

For four decades, Brown and his wife, Connie, operated Longmeadows Farm in Benton. The farm, on the National Register of Historic Places, is now in the hands of their son, Xandy, and his wife, Sherry, but Brown said he keeps his hand in by helping out during summers.

For years, they have used the same slaughterhouse, and they are satisfied with it. But he said he can see the opportunity for Central Maine Meats in the marketplace.

“You used to be able to get in whenever you wanted,” Brown said. “Now, the slaughterhouses are booked up for years.” It can take months to get on a schedule, he said.

Central Maine Meats is not quite at that point, Davis said, but the schedule is filling up.

For Davis, the business is about maximizing opportunities and finding markets for new products, like cowhides and possibly sheepskins, which are byproducts of the slaughtering facility in addition to providing quality cuts of meat.

“We have a customer who sells lamb to high-end restaurants in Boston and New York City,” he said. “She’s familiar with the needs of the chefs in terms of the cuts of meat they are looking for, and she has been in to show our cutters those cuts.”

Because the facility is U.S. Department of Agriculture inspected, it’s allowed to sell meat across state lines.

“To me, the most interesting piece is the local food strategy has been on the city’s radar for a while,” Patrick Wright, economic and community development coordinator for the city of Gardiner, said. “We’re in proximity to farms and distribution networks and population centers, and doesn’t it make sense to be a food hub? This is a realization of that goal, and we’re excited to facilitate that expansion. We’re hoping Central Maine Meats can represent a cluster of food related businesses, particularly helped by being in a cluster because there are similar needs for infrastructure and distribution.”

The Maine Agricultural Trades Show continues through Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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